On The Writing Process

Today, I welcome Connie Cockrell – we have yet to meet in person, but it’s fun to host an Arizona writer this week.

A 20-year Air Force career, time as a manager at a computer operations company, wife, mother, sister and volunteer, provides a rich background for Connie Cockrell’s story-telling.

Cockrell grew up in upstate NY, just outside of Gloversville before she joined the military at age 18. Having lived in Europe, Great Britain, and several places around the United States, she now lives in Payson, AZ with her husband: hiking, gardening, and playing bunko. She writes about whatever comes into her head so her books could be in any genre. She’s published fifteen books so far, has been included in five different anthologies and been published on EveryDayStories.com. Connie’s always on the lookout for a good story idea. Beware, you may be the next one.

She can be found at www.conniesrandomthoughts.com or on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/ConniesRandomThoughts or on Twitter at: @ConnieCockrell or on Amazon at amazon.com/author/conniecockrell

Connie, what motivated you to write fiction? 

I’ve always been interested in writing stories but I never knew how and with the press of working in the military and being a wife and mother and going to college, there just wasn’t time to figure it out. After I retired and moved to Arizona, my daughter moved in with us for a time. She met a young woman who was working on her first novel and told my daughter about National Novel Writing Month, a writing challenge to write 50,000 words, a short novel, in one month.

I asked my daughter how hard could that be and she challenged me to do and loaned me a copy of Story Engineering by Larry Brooks. Well, it was already mid-October, 2011, so I sped read through the book, put scene ideas on sticky notes on the back of the closet door and on 1 November, began writing my first book, The Bad Seed. I did the whole book in one month and it was pretty darned exciting. It took me months and months to rewrite and revise it but I did publish it in 2012.

Please tell us more …

One question I get all the time from readers is, “How do you write a book?” What they’re asking is, “How do you get started?”, “How do you know what to write?” and even, “Where do you get your ideas?”

The idea comes first. For me it’s usually plot. I see a documentary on TV, or read some trending memes on social media, or it’s a subject my friends are talking about. Anywhere, really. So, I get start with the question, “What if…,” then I take off. What could possibly happen in that situation? What people would be involved? How can I make the situation unusual? For example, instead of a down and out woman being the protagonist fighting against a corporate controlled world, what if I choose a woman from the upper 1% of the population? How would that change the story?

Then it’s a matter of writing those possible ideas down, lining them up, thinking up connecting scenes, maybe even adding a plot line or two. I arrange the scenes in some sort of order, doing my best to make sure the three or four-part story beats are in the right spots, and start to write.

After that it’s a matter of sitting down each day and writing to the scene. Do I stick strictly to the scene as written? Only as far as I get to the critical point, where the scene leads to the next one. But within the scene, I could create a new character from the past, I could reveal an unknown aspect of my character’s background. I could reveal a new plot line. All kinds of things could and do happen while I’m writing.

I don’t shoot for a certain number of words per chapter or book. It’s done when it’s done. Give it a try. It’s fun!

Connie’s giving away an e-book to a commenter. Just leave your contact info with your comment. Happy second week of January, 2017! 

A New Year’s Revolution

My husband and I have been playing Scrabble. Now, this is not something we often do in normal everyday life. But we’re on vacation, and one can only take SO MUCH football. (:

When we submit to a Scrabble game, I have to forego my degrees in English and my penchant for perfectionism with words. Once in a while, it’s good to allow another authority to call the shots. It’s good to let go.


So, this little book becomes our guidebook, and for the purposes of our game, if it says something works as a word, it does.

In the process, we’ve learned a few new words. May you enjoy more and more times like this during 2017, when you’re able to suspend your usual routine and simply enjoy the moment!

Be Still


Once again, I’m borrowing from Jane Kirkpatrick’s newsletter, because there’s no way to     improve on this sentiment, especially at Christmas time. Thanks, Jane,and enjoy, everyone (not that you have time to spend reading blogs right now, but maybe sometime in the next few days!)

Be still and know that I am God.
Be still and know that I am.
Be still and know.
Be still.

Somehow this mantra of peace came into my life. I breathe the words in like a precious prayer, speaking the first sentence…and then breathing out those same words with one long breath. Then I breathe in with the second sentence… and breathe out…and begin the third. I do this until I am at the final sentence, the shortest one, the ultimate assurance given by the first: Be. This practice helps me calm the day or night, soothe the racing thoughts of uncertainty and brings me rest. I may repeat it over and over as I wake to help prepare for the day ahead or as I wait in traffic or lie beside my husband waiting for sleep.

In this Christmas season, the practice takes on new meaning for me, especially the last sentence: Be. “Be not afraid” the angels told the shepherds and I’m told that “Be not afraid” is the most repeated sentiment expressed within the Bible recognizing our human propensity to worry and to be afraid.
This season I’m exploring the Be-ness of my life. May I Be courageous as Mary was as she walked into uncertainty. Be wise and willing as Joseph was as he approached the great mystery of Jesus birth and all that was happening over which he had no control. Be kind and make room for strangers as the Inn-keeper.

May I Be as generous as a Magi and as obedient, willing to take another route home. May I Be welcoming to those fleeing the Herods of this world as Jesus himself as a child did, running like a Syrian refugee. Be a voice as in later life, the woman at the well was, who told her friends of this Jesus she had met and what he had done to bring newness to her life. Be willing to be keep Christmas in our hearts all year long.

Writer and pastor Barbara Brown Taylor notes that the concordance mentions “Behold” more times than “Believe.” I’m reminded that the angels told the shepherds right after “Be not afraid” to “Behold, I bring you tidings of great joy.” Another writer once said that what each of us as human beings need in this life is three b’s: to belong, to be competent and to be loved.

Jesus embodies each of those giving us a place to belong, assurance of our capacity to be able do the work God sets before us and to recognize that we are beloved. “You are my beloved; with you I am well pleased” God says. And the gift of Jesus is that love come alive in our hearts everyday if we will be still and know.

Let your hearts be settled this season as I wish for each of you the blessings of being. “Be still and know that I am God. Be still and know that I am. Be still and know. Be still. Be.

Nine Below and Counting Down

Last night, an incredible full moon rose, and the temps fell way below zero.


At four a.m., this gorgeous sight still shed its rays on our back yard.


Right now, it’s nine degrees here in northern Iowa, and the forecast says it’ll get even colder. BUT the sun is shining. That makes all the difference, eh?


Lance took this photo from one of our windows – honeysuckle twigs enveloped in ice. Such winter artistry, but we remember delicate pink blossoms and the sweet perfume of this bush in June.

In spite of the bitter cold, beauty peeks out for us. As James M. Barrie wrote, “God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December.” Embrace the joys of this season!


A Holiday Toast to “Old” Writers…


We woke up to the season’s first snow this morning, transforming our grey, early-December Iowa into a wonderland. Today I’m sharing author Jane Kirkpatrick’s November post, because it holds encouragement for “old” writers. Like a fresh snow covering, we have a great deal to offer the world. May her words bless your Christmas stockings off!

Francis Bacon wrote: “Age appears to be best in four things; old wood best to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust, and old authors to read.” I present this wisdom as four “old” authors this past month have spoken to me about getting published. They have terrific story ideas, the time and energy to pursue their craft and demonstrated perseverance. What they’ve shared about finding a publisher is astonishing. At one conference, an editor said publishing older authors for the first time is just not cost effective because they “don’t know how to do social media or even what a platform is.”

Of course we know what a platform is. It’s a pair of shoes. No, really, it’s a mission statement, what one is willing to stand behind and for. We older authors have had platforms for years as young people going to war or taking stands against them; about the environment; as parents advocating for kids; as business owners and/or employees working long hours with integrity because we believe in what we’re doing and in the communities we’re doing it in. We know how to create a writing platform, one we can stand on and for, just as we know how to write a story.

More importantly, we bring life experiences to the stories we tell. We know how to create empathy for a character because we’ve shown empathy for others in order to live in community. We know how to give voice to those seldom heard because we’ve been listening for years. And we know how to memorialize, how to write about what matters not only to ourselves but as ways to reach others, most of whom are much younger than we are. Perhaps we can prevent in real life the mistakes that our characters make by telling stories constructed on our platforms.

As for social media…one of my “wise” author friends noted, “We have networks from years of working, contacts made while researching, people excited for us in retirement as we pursue another occupation, that of becoming an author.” We can get thousands of friends and “likes” and Twitter followers. She noted too that while many of us aren’t savvy about social media, we have resources to hire people to help us with the technology required of this writing world. At the very least we have 15-year-old grandkids or nieces and nephews to offer guidance. And because we read and are a part of this fascinating world, we also undertake new challenges with vigor knowing that even old rats, when given new mazes, grow new brain cells. If an old rat can learn new tricks, I can!

With my latest book This Road We Traveled about (in part) a 66-year-old woman who didn’t accept her adult children’s plan for her life and struck out on the Oregon Trail with her own wagon, I’ve become especially sensitive to the passions of age. It was what Tabitha Moffat Brown accomplished after she was 66 years old in 1846 in her adopted state of Oregon that moved the 1987 legislature to name her “The Mother of Oregon.” Many of the historical women I write about came “of age” in what we might call their “old age.”

The Psalmist wrote “The Lord knows my lot. He makes my boundaries fall on pleasant places.” Personally, I think publishers are missing the passion of a great story when they let a border like age define an otherwise very pleasant place. Bring on that old wood, aged wine and trusted friends! And yes, old authors.

Thanks so much, Jane. If you’ve yet to read any of her wonderful historical fiction, now would be a great time for a taste! 

Winter Writers’ Retreat and Something to Think About

Ann Lee Brown and I will be facilitating a writers’ weekend at Breath of Life Retreat House in Pine, AZ this February. If you’d like more details about this, please go here: http://annleemiller.com/weekend/

We’d love to have you join us!

Now, let’s consider this quote:


That’s a tall order, right? First of all, loving oneself sounds selfish, but then, “…Love your neighbor as yourself” clarified that eons ago. It’s just that we didn’t get it.

Actually, becoming what we were meant to be brings great satisfaction to our creator, just as living a fulfilled life pleases one’s mother and father.

This lesson’s a tough one to learn for those reared from a shame-based foundation. Those of you who know Dottie and Addie, my two fiction characters (so far) are familiar with their line of thinking. And many of us engage in the same old mental channels.

But let me say between the seasons of Thanksgiving and Christmas, how grateful I am for avenues out of that sort of thinking. Sure, the transition takes time, as my heroines Addie and Dottie experienced. But the struggle ranks right up there in the WORTHWHILE category.

In a little over two months, Addie and Kate’s stories will continue as WITH EACH NEW DAWN is released. The lessons from In Times Like These will serve them well–you’ll see!!

Ada Brownell – free book!

Ada Brownell visits us today with a word about thanksgiving.  Peach Blossom Rancher, her Inspirational Historical Romance, will be free 11/20 to 11/24 on Amazon: A handsome young man inherits a ranch in ruins, hopes to bring it back to its former glory and also marry a beautiful young widow who is an attorney. But she takes up the case of a brilliant doctor committed to an asylum because of one seizure. Will the rancher, the attorney, and the asylum patient achieve their dreams?

Suspense, romance, humor, murder, insanity, hope, fun, wrapped in a Western you won’t forget.


 Go for it!! Enjoy this free read!

Rancher cover 1


By Ada Nicholson Brownell

 “’Four thousand praised the Lord with the instruments I made,’ said David, ‘to praise, therewith’” (1 Chronicles 23:5 KJ).

I had no idea how one would go about making a musical instrument until my brother, Dr. Joe Nicholson,demonstrated how to make a trumpet. He took 4 ½ feet of tubing, actually garden hose, and a funnel for one end and put a brass mouthpiece in the other.

Then he blew. It sounded almost exactly like the brass instrument as he played a short tune. Then he used 9 feet of hose for a trombone or baritone. The sound deepened. For a tuba it took 18 feet and the notes  were way down there.

People have been known to make music with reeds picked along a river. The ancients made sounds with leaves and blew on ram’s horns. Rhythm instruments can be made of most anything, including gourds to shake and jugs to blow. Kids often play tunes on a comb and paper.

David could engage metalsmiths to make brass instruments, and use various talented folks to create stringed instruments out of wood or other materials.But musical instruments go back as far as Genesis and Adam and Eve.  We’re told, “And his brother’s name was Jubal: he was the father of all such as handle the harp and organ” (Genesis 4:21).

I wonder if the word “Jubilant” was penned after him. Jubilant means “showing great joy, satisfaction, or triumph; rejoicing; exultant.”

The next verse names Zillah, one of Adam and Eve’s great-granddaughters. She bare Tubalcain, an instructor of every artificer in brass and iron. Maybe he made trumpets as well as tools.

Quite a lot of difference between what the Bible says and what my college textbook claimed about the beginning of music. “A monkey came down out of tree and made an instrument,” the book said, and I laughed.

Music is used in worship to the only true God who created the heavens and the earth. When David was chosen to take his rightful place as God’s anointed king, David not only went after the ark but worked diligently to re-establish true worship. That included joyful music and singing.

But before they could properly play, sing, and combine their voices they needed to be organized. The Levites dusted off their talents and divided into groups according to their ministries because during Saul’s reign they had brought in idols and neglected worshiping God.

David wrote, “Praise him with the sound of the trumpet; praise him with the psaltery and harp, praise him with timbrel and dance; praise him with stringed instruments and organs. Praise him upon the high sounding cymbals. Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord” (Psalm 150:3-6).

So they praised the Lord all the way as they carried the Ark home.

PRAYER: Lord, I praise you for breath, for music, and for who you are, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, my Savior, and my soon Coming King.
Read sample chapters of Ada’s books on Amazonhttps://www.amazon.com/author/adabrownell

Connect with Ada at:


Twitter: @adabrownell

Amazon Ada Brownell author page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B001KJ2C06

Google https://plus.google.com/u/0/+AdaBrownell/posts

Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1654534.Ada_Brownell

Blog: http://inkfromanearthenvessel.blogspot.com Stick-to-Your-Soul Encouragement

Love in the Seams

Today I’d like to welcome, Jodie Wolfe. I understand you recently released a new book. Can you tell us about it?

Social Media 2015

Thank you for having me here today, Gail. I look forward to getting to know you and your readers better.

Love in the Seams is book two in my Twins & Needles Series. Here’s what it says on the back cover.

Seams Cover-promo-web


Mae Stafford longs for the companionship and unconditional love her sister has found in her new husband. But after years of refusing potential suitors because of a pact they made as children, Mae no longer has any choices left once their agreement is broken. She’s given up hope that God will give her what she desires most, a family of her own.



Instead of dwelling on what she doesn’t have, she throws herself into her work in her recently acquired local dress shop.

As a promise made to his late wife, Johannes Mueller agrees to travel west to be a school teacher in Calder Springs, Texas, away from the bigotry associated with being an immigrant in New York City. He hopes to improve his life and forget his loss. Johannes isn’t counting on his five-year-old daughter’s search for a new mother when they arrive.

His little LillyAnn finds ways to bring the seamstress and him together…often. Can he learn to embrace his German heritage and unlock his heart to love again?

I understand your first book is about Mae Stafford’s twin sister, Ellie, is that correct?

Yes. Hearts Tightly Knit is built on the premise of twin sisters who made a vow to always stay together and never marry. I wondered what it would take to persuade one of them to change their minds.

 In your new novella, Mae Stafford is a seamstress. Do you sew?

I do, some. I made a Victorian outfit that I wore at a genre dinner at an ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) conference a couple years ago. While I do enjoy sewing, my favorite craft is knitting.

GOOD GRIEF! I call that really sewing, girl! I do ok w/buttons and hems, but …

 Do you have any final thoughts to share about your writing?

The goal of my writing is to point to my Heavenly Father and the hope we can have in Him, no matter what our circumstances.

 Where can readers find you and purchase your book?

Website: http://www.jodiewolfe.com

Purchase Link: https://www.amazon.com/Love-Seams-Twins-Needles-Book/dp/0997502622/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1478548961&sr=8-1&keywords=love+in+the+seams

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/Jodie-Wolfe-553400191384913/; https://www.facebook.com/jodie.wolfe.1

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JodieAWolfe

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/JodieAWolfe

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Jodie-Wolfe/e/B01EAWOHXO/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15220520.Jodie_Wolfe

Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/116840153259583634192/posts

Fiction Finder: http://www.fictionfinder.com/author/?author=Jodie+Wolfe

Blogs I contribute to: Stitches Thru Time, Putting on the New and of course, Quid Pro Quills.

Thanks, Jodie. I hope your book sells extremely well.

Thank you for allowing me to stop by today, Gail to speak to your readers. I’m giving away a free sewing kit to one lucky commenter between now and November 19th. Winner will be notified.

A Wild Raccoon and Some Outstanding Hens


My husband snapped this photo during my Southwest Iowa book tour this past week. By the way, that area of our state is knock-down gorgeous! Rolling hills, serene towns, village squares, many restored turn-of-the century bulldings (like Ed and Eva’s in Greenfield- thanks again, Ken, for the tour. What an amazing building your community has to enjoy!)

Along the way, Lance sent me this photo, and when I arrived home after visiting several public libraries – Adair, Anita, Winterset, Creston, Red Oak, and La Vista in Nebraska – I asked how he ever managed to take this shot.


Turns out our little raccoon friend had gotten caught in a trap, so Lance spoke with our local policeman. Hopefully, they were able to help the frightened creature. Such remarkable coloring – you’d never know by looking that this animal was held prisoner. So much we don’t notice until we get the full story, eh?

Isn’t that the way it is with people? We interact with all sorts, and since I’m an inveterate “people person,” I really enjoy meeting new folks who attend my book talks. Sometimes we strike up a friendship and continue to communicate, and often, I learn more about the person’s background.

Maybe they’re caught in a trap of sorts, like Addie was seventy-five years ago as the Pearl Harbor attack thrust the U.S. into WWII . Maybe they’re just waiting for a new friend to show up, offering fresh ideas and alternatives they’ve never considered.

My cousin Carolyn allows me to stop and collapse in her spare bedroom on these trips, and she sent me a great photo a few minutes ago. Their pet hens, each with a distinct personality, produced something they’d been waiting for this morning. A blue egg amongst the brown …pretty cool!


Carolyn and her son creatively named the hens. The blue-egg layers (Ameraucana) answer to Mamie Eisenhenner and Martha Cluckington. What’s not to love about that?


No chance either of these ladies would ever get caught in a trap, unlike the thousand hens running loose on my grandparents’ farm in Addie’s era. Nope, these hens enjoy a fenced-in home, complete with a light to encourage more egg-laying as the cold sets in.



Back to my book tour.  My gratitude goes to all the library directors who advertised my visit and continue to promote my books, and those readers who’ve told me Addie’s story intrigued them and piqued their interest in World War II history.

We often discuss rationing at these talks, and the role various foods played. In England, each person enjoyed only ONE EGG every two weeks. Certainly a good time to live down on the farm. 


Consider the Little Mouse

Plautus wrote, “Consider the little mouse, how sagacious an animal it is which never entrusts his life to one hole only.”

As one who sees the world in black-and-white, Addie’s husband Harold clouds life’s joy. Things are good or bad, the Allies are losing the war if they lose one battle, and if the cows get out, someone’s to blame.

But Addie, steadfast in her determination to please Harold, can’t help but seeing the beauty in a downfall of walnuts that makes a huge mess for her to clean up in the driveway. One day, she spots her neighbor Jane’s innovative way of drying the walnuts on screens set on sawhorses.

Though Harold taunts her, she employs Jane’s tactics, thus saving herself bending over to retrieve the nuts, and as the green peelings turn to mush, a great deal of stain on her fingers.


Thinking outside the box–it’s the spark of life that makes each day fresh. It’s the ingenuity that keeps the gobblers down by the creek seeking new food sources as autumn cold arrives.

What might we learn this day? What might nature, or our friend down the road, teach us?

Recently I’ve had several responses to Addie’s story that hearten me to the core. One woman has certain pages earmarked, and Addie’s lessons are helping this reader through a difficult time in a relationship. Another thanks me for not making things easy for Addie–no pat answers, no platitudes.

It’s harvest time … walnuts and the fruits of writing. Ahhhh….a pleasant season! And if you haven’t become acquainted with Addie and Harold yet, please do–information at this address:


The sequel to Addie’s story, With Each New Dawn, releases in February, and broadens her world greatly!